Plot and Point of View in the Iliadby Robert J. Rabel
Plot and Point of View in the Iliad argues that Homer, the poet of the Iliad, may be fully distinguished from the narrator of Homeric poetry, who is the Muse, and also from the heroes and heroines who live within the world of the story. The Iliad is a poem with a particularly rich and complex structure of perspectives, and as point of view as/i>/i>/i>
Plot and Point of View in the Iliad argues that Homer, the poet of the Iliad, may be fully distinguished from the narrator of Homeric poetry, who is the Muse, and also from the heroes and heroines who live within the world of the story. The Iliad is a poem with a particularly rich and complex structure of perspectives, and as point of view as an element of storytelling has garnered tremendous interest in this century, critical attention has taken up this question in relation to Homer's poem.
Robert Rabel argues that in different ways, both the Muse-narrator and the poet manipulate point of view in order to discover and define the meaning of the Iliad, placing various ways of thinking in competing and complementary relationships with one another. In the process, the Muse-narrator produces a sophisticated and compelling analysis of the tragic limitations of life in accordance with the heroic ethic. In the end, the poet provides a demonstration of the extent to which reality can only be grasped and apprehended in epic poetry through images that are constructed from various individual perspectives.
This volume will be of interest to students of comparative and classical literature, philosophers, and readers of Homeric epic. All Greek passages are translated, and discussions of technical language are kept to a minimum.
Robert J. Rabel is Associate Professor of Classics, University of Kentucky.
- University of Michigan Press
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- 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
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I teach a course on Homer's Iliad to law students at Arizona State University College of Law. I use Richmond Lattimore's translation (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951) and rely on a variety of works in English by American scholars to help students understand the complexity and depth of Homer's great work, including, for example, Seth Schein's The Mortal Hero; James Redfield's Nature and Culture in the Iliad; and Malcolm Wilcock's A Companion to the Iliad. To this list I must now add Robert Rabel's Plot and Point of View in the Iliad. This is, quite simply, a wonderful work; brilliant, insightful and illuminating. It illustrates aspects of the Iliad I had never seen before. Rabel applies Aristotle's theories and modern scholarship on perspective in narrative literature to show how multiple points of view are used throughout the Iliad, as the Muses, the narrator (author), and the characters each describe events from their own perspectives. Rabel also reveals the different kinds of heroic behavior present in the poem: the cooperative heroism of the hero when on the defensive in a city under seige (and in the Iliad, this includes the Achaians in their camp), and the competitive, individualistic heroism of the heroes when they are on the attack and trying to win glory for themselves. This is an important point. It allows the reader to understand Homer's portrait of the conflict between a hero's desire for individual honor and the group's need for social cohesion. Finally, this book makes accessible to the general reader a wealth of Homeric scholarship from the past decade that Rabel mines for their insights and generously includes in his footnotes and his bibliography. For the reader who has Greek, Rabel includes quotations from the original text alongside his own translations. For the Greekless reader (like myself), the Greek citations are an ornament and not a distraction in the text. In conclusion, let me repeat, this is a wonderful book. I felt about it as did Keats, on first looking into Chapman's Homer. I recommend it without reservation.